Simon Turner and George Ttoouli caught up in the e-ther to discuss recent reading, like intellectual rats hooked to literary electrodes, to see if there's any charged writing around to get their pleasure muscles jumping.
So, I was thinking over what you’d said the other day during your jaunt to sunny Leamington, about how you’ve been feeling a little removed from the various poetry scenes in the UK. I have to admit, and did at the time, that I’m feeling similarly removed from proceedings, due to a combination of age and contrarianism. That said, there are plenty of individual poets out there whose work we admire; it’s just perhaps that we’ve allowed context - poetics, infighting, aesthetic battles, the scurf riding in the wake of the Poetry Wars - to fall by the wayside. Which might not be such a bad thing, all told.
One of the things I’ve been reading lately is a collection of interviews from the Poetry Project that Wave Books has just published, and even though I’ve only just begun dipping into it - it’s a treasure-trove in so many ways - one theme that’s come up with a degree of regularity is the notion that, ultimately, scenes, movements, poetics, aesthetics, don’t really matter: what matters is, as a reader, finding out work you admire; and, perhaps more importantly, as a working poet, finding like-minded people you can become friends with, and with whom you can share your work and enthusiasms. Everything else is just politics.
So, partly because it’s fun to discuss one’s reading in a general sense, and partly because I wanted to get back on the G&P pony, what say you to an improvised textual discussion of our recent reading? What have we loved, what have we hated? Which neglected voices do we want to crow from the rooftops? Which over-rated prize-winners would we choose to bury beneath impenetrable layers of feculent landfill? Thoughts?
I’m fairly sure it should be ‘faeculent’ just because it was too close to fecund for my tastes. That said, it does remind of a story I heard recently about people mining landfill for rare earth metals and along the way, someone somehow managed to dig up the worst Atari game ever made, something related to E.T.
But that’s a long way off topic. I’ll admit, I’m not actually that long into reading for pleasure again. I’ve been trying to compile a list of titles to revisit, acquired over the past few years or so, with the intention of (re-)reading with a little more attention. Looking over my shelves, my tastes have changed a lot.
But, that said, this is improv, so I’m going to dive in with what’s been on my mind. I mentioned, during our foray in the park, Rupert Loydell’s new book arrived in the post - Dear Mary (Shearsman). I actually wrote a review of it, and it may even be live before this conversation is ended [insert link here if so].
Another one that has been on my mind: AK Blakemore’s Humbert Summer (Eyewear). I met ‘AK’ several years ago when I was working a London job and she was winning awards. I was struck by the poems’ images back then and when I glanced through the copy in my local Waterstones, was struck again, although there was a sharper edge to the syntax, a little more punk to the language. I didn’t buy that copy because someone had smeared it with black gunk and it was the only shop copy (don’t even know what it was doing there, frankly), but ordered from the publisher. I dipped into it, ran out of time, dipped back in... The usual story. But it’s still interesting enough, has enough difference in language to conventional stuff to mean I’m going back to it.
Which reminds me: the images were the reason I got into Nathan Thompson’s work, though really his schtick turned out to be voice. I never did pick up his last Shearsman. Might be time to start dishing out the spondulix again. Sad to have lost touch with him. I’m fairly sure I had a parcel lined up to send him, then lost track of his email and postal addresses.
But community: that was actually a conversation I started to have with Theo in January. I feel like our ‘community of like-minds’ is spread all over the place: from Birmingham to Athens, Australia to Cornwall to Singapore. It would be nice to have the money to visit them regularly, though that might drive me mad. Still, I feel like the Midlands has a big red band of no around it, driving all the like-minds away. Something akin to Baker’s description of how birds reacted to his human shape.
This was originally called 'Recent Reading', but the conversation happened so long ago, the hot dust of zeitgeist is now the frozen sheen of yesteryear. Part 2 tomorrow.